Final Stop - Sao Paulo

Trip Start Nov 11, 2007
Trip End Dec 23, 2007

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sao Paulo

The city is like an optical illusion.  Our view on the 19th floor out Avenida Paulista is quite amazing - there does not seem to be an end to the skyscrapers and the traffic - not only on the ground - but also by helicopter - I believe quite a few people commute that way as well.  The city has many distinct areas and we have explored some of them - although we have been quite cautious and have not done as much as we would normally do when visiting a new place.  
Our first full day here it rained, rained, rained all day long.  We decided to head to a shopping mall where at least we would have a place to walk around. We were absolutely amazed not only with the atmosphere and the high end shopping but also the prices.  I guess we did not realize just how expensive it was here in Brazil.  The stores even give prices in this way:  If you want to buy something that costs R$ 500.00 then it will read:  R$ 500 / 7 x R$ 71.42.  Most items - even as low as R$ 120 will be broken down into payments.  Then the prices - for example - last year while we were in Rome, we bought a Bialetti Stovetop Cappuccino Maker - we paid at the time 59 Euro for it or US $80.24 with the exchange rate last year.  They have the exact same one here for R$520.00 or US $290.50.  Jim needed some more hair gel and that ranged anywhere from R$ 25 (US $13.96) to R$ 60 (US $33.51) and that was for the drug store brands we would buy in the U.S. - not the higher end Salon brands. Needless to say, Jim is not using hair gel right now.  Trident Gum - 12 pieces R$ 5.20 (US $2.90)  
Gasoline figures out to U.S. $ 5.50/gallon with Ethanol and 100% Ethanol is US $3.32 /gallon.  However gas mileage is much less with 100% Ethanol.  The Ethanol price is subsidized by the government and that is how they are becoming self-sufficient on importing petroleum.  They are forcing people to use Ethanol by making it so much less expensive than Gasoline.  Shell has the most beautiful stations here - and there are a few Texaco but otherwise they are all Brazilian companies. 
We were speaking to some Brazilians about how they all can afford some of these things and they agreed that prices are expensive - but they say that the government supports many people and then the providers raise their costs since the government is paying for the services and it is a vicious cycle.  There are quite a few homeless people on the streets too. 
One day we explored the Jardins district - where we are staying and Avenida Paulista.  We were all excited to visit the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and see Picasso's painting Portrait of Suzanne Bloch but lo and behold - the morning we were to visit - someone got there first and stole it - along with another painting by a famous Brazilian artist.  What a disappointment - but seriously at about 5:30 a.m., one block from our hotel, this took place.  A car jack and a crow bar were used to get into the museum and they did this during a shift change with the guards and the room that the paintings were held was not alarmed and also we found out that the works were not insured either.  They have a value of $56 million attached to this.  The building is quite interesting - sort of raised up on concrete 'stilts' above the street.
We didn't always take the camera out because we really did not know what we would be in for - many people warned us about thieves on the streets - so like I said - we were a bit cautious.   We managed to figure out the Metro/subway system and we used that to get across town to the old center of town where we visited the Cathedral and a couple other churches - one being the St. Francis of Assisi church where there was a holiday bazaar going on.  It reminded me of yours Rita - except they didn't have Rock Candy and Christmas Ornaments made out of old curtain rings.  They did have Wine and Honey which were both made at the Monastery.  We found the Stock Exchange building - Bovespa - which I really wanted to find for Jim - and we were able to go inside and take a tour.  Since 2005 all the trading in the Brazilian Market has been done remotely from computers.  They have the highest volume of trading in the entire Latin American market - beating out Mexico.  Jim was very interested in it - Will - Bahdee was checking all the markets out yesterday - and the most important one for you was up - so that is good news - especially right before Christmas!!  Bahdee would have liked to show you this place and we took some photos for you - we hope you like them.  This area is home to all of the main bank buildings too and they are all beautiful - granite and marble with mostly an Art Deco design. 
Many different restaurants were recommended to us by Brazilians that we met on the ship - one happened to be Fogo de Chao which some people may know from their locations in the U.S. - or maybe in the Airline Magazines which they advertise in.  Well - I was a bit skeptical thinking it might not be so original but we gave it a try anyway and we were very glad that we did.  It was quite a distance from our hotel but worth it.  Typical of the Rodizios/Churrascarias they bring some typical items to the table - bread, fried polenta, dried yucca, fried bananas, potatoes and different sauces for the meat and grilled mozzarella cheese.  Then there is the salad bar which is enormous with many great offerings - artichokes, hearts of palm, carpaccio of beef, grilled vegetables, green salads, potato salads, seafood salads, etc.  Keep in mind though that the best of what the restaurant offers is coming as often as you would like to your table.  Many different cuts of beef, pork, sausages, lamb, chicken and partridge with little tasty chicken hearts making the rounds and you designate with a disk - red on one side and green on the other - whether or not you would like them to stop by.  My favorite was the Noble Sirloin, Jim's of course was the Lamb Chop - just how many could one possibly eat? - well - you don't want to know - but Jim and the Lamb Chop 'Gaucho' become fast friends!  It was really great and the Caiprihinias did their job by helping to wash it all down.  The next night we tried an Italian restaurant - which was quite large and full of locals - but we were very, very disappointed - so much so that I won't even go into it.  We decided that the next night we would go back to Fogo de Chao - eat a big breakfast - skip lunch and be ready to eat by 8:30 p.m.  It was once again excellent - we were given the same table - and of course we were recognized by the staff and Jim was given special recognition by the Gaucho on Lamb Chop duty!
We are leaving on Sunday - our flight leaves in the afternoon - but since the airport is about an hour outside of the downtown area we decided to move to the Marriott which is located near the airport.  Even though it is a Sunday - with the holiday traffic we decided that we would feel better being closer to the airport before leaving.  As soon as I finish posting this we have a taxi driver coming to pick us up - we met him on the first day here - and arranged for him to take us since he has a large car for all of our luggage.  We are not exactly going out on a high note with these photos - but here you go - Will - there is a nice Santa section for you - as well as the Stock Market photos - since you know a lot about those subjects.
Merry Christmas - Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year - thank you again for following along on our journey - you'll be hearing from us again next year.
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5025 on

Final Day
Thanks Stephanie for all the beautiful photos and the commentary. We enjoyed it and are looking forward to the next adventure. Dad said to tell Jim that he just picked up a gallon of hair gel at Walmart so we will bring some along - you know dad uses a lot of that!!!

Love, Mom

jrcassiday on

Final Final
Wow....seems like you have been on this trip forever...glad it all worked out well. Get home safely.

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